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RIO Country Report Ireland 2016

The annual RIO Country Report offers an analysis of the R&I system in Ireland including relevant policies and funding, with particular focus on topics critical for EU policies. The report identifies the main challenges of the Irish research and innovation system and assesses the policy response.


Executive summary


  • Following the general election of February 2016, while still focusing on job creation, the political agenda of the new minority government has switched to addressing social issues such as housing and health.
  • The Irish R&I system is fairly centralised with the bulk of R&I budgets being controlled by ministries.
  • Manufacturing is still the leading sector in terms of GVA thanks to pharmaceuticals and food & beverage products. R&D spending is the highest in ICT, wholesale & retail trade and technical & scientific activities, in manufacturing of computer, electronic and optical products and that of pharmaceuticals.
  • The weight of MNCs in the economy is very large exposing the country to cyclical swings and external shocks.
  • GERD intensity was 1.52% of GDP in 2014. BERD is the main component and has been stable during the last 5 years (2014: 1.14%).
  • The downward trend in direct public R&D funding came to halt in 2013 and is now on an upwards trajectory. The decline was compensated by increases in indirect funding, particularly through the R&D tax credit.

Main R&I Policy Challenges

  • Improving the take-up and performance of R&D by indigenous enterprises. Ireland performs relatively well in terms of innovation outputs. However, BERD is dominated by MNCs. A high share of SMEs have a limited capacity to innovate and to absorb innovations. A range of recent policy responses aim to increase the number of indigenous enterprises engaged in R&D activities.
  • Increasing R&D in the FDI sector. The engagement of MNCs needs to be deepened so that they move up the value chain. Attracting new MNC investments in R&D is an important policy objective. Developing the research base and fostering closer enterprise-HES linkages are key policy responses.
  • Increasing public sector funding of R&D (addressed also by the European Council, CSR 2016). Reductions in the public R&D budget weighed heavily on the HES via falling numbers of R&D personnel and PhD enrolments. As a response the government has focused on maximising the impact of public research funding, getting the highest possible return from Horizon 2020 and eliminating duplications in research funding.
  • Business-academia collaboration and knowledge transfer. The low degree of business–academia collaboration has been recurrently highlighted. A range of direct funding schemes targeting collaborative research are provided. Yet, Ireland would benefit from the rationalisation of the wide range of small scale grant-based schemes. There is also a need to invest in near-to-market research centres/RTOs to address gaps in the provision of RDI support.


Main R&I Policy Developments in 2016

Geo coverage
Report year
Official publication date
Monday, 8 May, 2017
Last update: 24/10/2017 | Top | Legal notice | Contact | Search